Quilotoa Loop: Culture Road

We first learned about walking the Quilotoa Loop from the two British women on our Santa Cruz trek. They described it as a great way to experience some of the culture in Ecuador as the trail links several more remote Andean villages. I think we actually only walked part of the loop and rather did the Quilotoa Traverse which can be done in either direction. Many people also opt to do the traverse using transportation between each town, but on the recommendation of our friends, we decided to walk the trail in the uphill direction to end up at the crater lake of Quilotoa on the last day.

DSC05050WWe stayed in a great hostel in Latacunga before we left, and luckily they had very detailed instructions for walkers in both directions. On the day of our departure due either to my poor Spanish or mis-information we missed our bus to the starting town of Isinlivi and instead had to catch a bus to a more distant town, Sigchos.

DSC05051WThe ride itself was an adventure with chickens everywhere and people packed into the bus. Our mistake ended up having a silver lining however because it meant that we were able to have one more day on the trail, as we had to walk the first day about 8 miles to our original starting point of Isinlivi.

DSC05052WWe had a quick lunch of bread and avocados next to a lone sheep, thoughtfully tied to a post, before heading off on our way.

DSC05053WImmediately the scenery was beautiful as we descended into the valley. Several themes started to form as the day wore on. Primarily, despite our detailed instructions, we quickly lost the way. Secondarily, we walked down, down, down, crossed the river and then walked up, up, up.

DSC05056WI was glad that we were fairly acclimatized at this point as we were both carrying our packs and some of the going up was by no means gentle. And to make things even more adventurous, most properties were guarded by very vocal and excitable dogs that made sure to let us know where their property lines lay. We also met quite a few friendly locals along the way who looked like they did this walk every day.

DSC05063WWe were the only guests in our hostel for the night, but as with all accommodation along the route our room price included dinner and breakfast.

DSC05064WWe had a cute wooden room with a loft and a hot shower, what more could a hiker want, this was luxury.

DSC05059WThe next day, after passing through some small towns,

DSC05070Wgetting lost and walking down to a river and up again,

DSC05069W we arrived quite early into Chugchilán. There were plenty of hammocks to swing in so we weren’t complaining. This hostal was much livelier and we had several fellow hikers around for meals which was nice.

The third day to Quilotoa felt like mostly up the side of the volcano (we did go down to the river first),

DSC05077Wbut we did pass through some towns on the way which we all realized were celebrating Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) which is right after Halloween. We couldn’t tell for sure, but it looked like everyone from the towns would gather in the grave yards and eat food and drink soda using the graves/tombs as tables.

DSC05078WThe last little bit going up through sand towards the rim was tough, but we knew the crater lake would be waiting for us at the top so we pushed on.

DSC05084WThe views were well worth it.

Can you find Erik?

DSC05088WP Fortunately, the trail wound around the lake for an hour before it dumped us off in the ending town of Quilotoa.

DSC05092WIf we’d had more time I think we would have liked to stay two nights in one town or stay the last night in Quilotoa, but for the first time in long time we had limited time. So, we quickly started looking for a way to get back to Latacunga that night. While we waited we lunched on some bread men we had found earlier that day that may or may not have been special for Dia de los Muertos.

DSC05094WAfter some haggling we found someone who would take us to the next town where we could catch a bus for a fair price. It was really interesting to observe the “public transportation system” in process. It seems that anyone with a vehicle will pick up anyone else to go from town to town for a small fee.


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